A community of practice (CoP) situated in a health and risk context is an approach to collaboration among members that promotes learning and development. In a CoP, individuals come together virtually or physically and coalesce around a common purpose. CoPs are defined by knowledge, rather than task, and encourage novices and experienced practitioners to work together to co-create and embed sustainable outputs that impact on theory and practice development. As a result, CoPs provide an innovative approach to incorporating evidence-based research associated with health and risk into systems and organizations aligned with public well-being. CoPs provide a framework for constructing authentic and collaborative learning. Jeanne Lave and Etienne Wenger are credited with the original description of a CoP as an approach to learning that encompasses elements of identity, situation, and active participation. CoPs blend a constructivist view of learning, where meaningful experience is set in the context of “self” and the relationship of “self” with the wider professional community. The result is an integrated approach to learning and development achieved through a combination of social engagement and collaborative working in an authentic practice environment. CoPs therefore provide a strategic approach to acknowledging cultural differences related to translating health and risk theory into practice. In health and risk settings, CoPs situate and blend theory and practice to create a portal for practitioners to generate, shape, test, and evaluate new ideas and innovations. Membership of a CoP supports the development of professional identity within a wider professional sphere and may support community members to attain long range goals.
Communities of Practice in Health and Risk Messaging
Communication Technology and Knowledge Management
In recent years, organizations have greatly increased their use of communication technologies to support knowledge management initiatives. These technologies, commonly referred to as knowledge management systems, are adopted in the hope that they will bolster organizations’ access to, and utilization of, knowledge resources. Yet the relationship between communication technology and knowledge management is complicated by ambiguity regarding whether knowledge can be validly captured, stored, and transmitted in an explicit form (as an object) or only exists in applications (as an action). Many scholars argue that reliance on communication technologies for knowledge management aids the ability of organizations to process information, but it has limited benefits for helping individuals gain situated knowledge regarding how best to accomplish work. An alternative view explores the potential of communication technologies to facilitate interaction among knowledgeable actors, which can support ongoing organizational learning. In practice, the use of communication technologies enacts a duality whereby knowledge operates both as an object that organizations and individuals have, and as an applied action that is used to solve situated problems. Numerous theoretical frameworks have been applied to study the relationship between communication technologies and knowledge management, with three of the most prominent being public goods theory, communities of practice, and transactive memory systems theory. Extant research recognizes the diverse ways that communication technologies can support knowledge management practices aimed at either improving the utilization of information in organizations or bolstering opportunities for interpersonal knowledge sharing. Regardless of the position taken regarding the most appropriate and effective ways that communication technology can support knowledge management, organizations hoping to implement knowledge management systems face numerous challenges related to spurring the creation of organizational knowledge, motivating individuals to share knowledge, transferring knowledge among groups, and storing knowledge to allow future retrieval. Furthermore, the breadth and diversity of communication technologies used for knowledge management will continue to expand as organizations explore the potential applications of social media technologies and seek to gain value from increases in available data regarding individuals’ communication and behaviors.